With the spate of recent police killings of blacks and the resultant urban riots, race has bullied its way to the forefront of American consciousness yet again. Along with the rest of you, I have read the various postings and news stories—and been horrified by the nasty, cruel, bigoted comments that follow.
What astounds me is that people still think race is a thing. With DNA science and technology, it has been proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that the concept of race is completely, utterly false. There is no such thing as race.
Let that sink in: there is no such thing as race.
According to the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health, “All human beings are 99.9 percent identical in their genetic makeup.” The remaining 0.1% difference accounts for diversity in skin tone, eye color and shape, and thousands of other variations between one individual and another. It has also been shown that every human being on Earth can trace his or her DNA ancestry back to Ethiopia of about 150,000 years ago. We are ALL out of Africa, every last one of us.
This means that a bushman in the Kalahari Desert, an office worker of European descent in New York and a factory worker in Taiwan are almost literally brothers. All that hatred, violence, fear, injustice, and bloodshed is over a 0.1% difference between us that takes place in structures so small we can’t see them without a scanning electron microscope.
Racism has apparently been with us as long as there have been hominids. Jane Goodall observed young male chimpanzees band together to hunt and bludgeon to death chimps of a different social group (a phenomenon that caused her a great deal of disillusionment and sorrow). There is some archeological evidence that homo sapiens may have caused the demise of other early hominids such as Neanderthals and Denisovans. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised—after all, human DNA differs from chimpanzee DNA by only 1.2% (http://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/genetics). That makes us cousins, if not brothers.
So here we are, thousands upon thousands of years later, still beating each other up for being different. During the 19th Century, (white) anthropologists and others tried to deploy science to support race theory. “Scientists” measured skulls and defined “racial” characteristics to prove that there were different races of men. Of course, they had already decided—scientifically, of course!—that Adam and Eve were white, making the white race the “original” and the peak of creation. Falling short of the white measurement stick, all other races were deemed inferior. All kinds of ludicrous models were set up to “prove” this, spawning horrors like eugenics, genocide and the Nazi Holocaust.
In the clear light of DNA science, all these antique constructions were blown away like the dark and ugly cobwebs they were. Unfortunately, much of the world does not seem to have received the message. Although the concept of “race” is utterly false, racism is very real.
I read recently (sorry, can’t remember where) that racism today is really tribalism—“Us” versus “Them”—and that race has little to do with it. That may be true, but if you ask a white bigot about why he hates blacks, you’ll hear a lot of claptrap about the differences between the “races.”
There’s also nonsense coming from the side of the oppressed, probably in natural retaliation for the crimes of racism. For instance, I have read that there is no such thing as reverse racism. The idea is that if you are not a member of an oppressed minority, you cannot be victimized by racism; racism can be directed only from the empowered toward the powerless. C’mon, guys. That’s just justifying racism under a new euphemism. It’s a made-up notion with no more basis in fact than “blacks aren’t intelligent enough to go to college.” Human beings have a tragic penchant for attacking “The Other,” and what color you are makes no difference.
My granddaughters are of “mixed” DNA. We know from DNA tests of their parents that they have genes inherited from almost every group on Earth. (There must be some interesting stories back there!) They are beautiful, tender, loving, and they have no idea at all that there is a concept called ”race.”
I want these children to grow up in a world where “race” is viewed as a hideous artifact of a long-dead age. There is no such thing as race. There are only human beings in their infinite and interesting variety. Help me get the word out.